Sunday, December 10, 2006

NOT an Isolated Incident & Should Verizon Concede these Mistakes?

It seems there is a similar case that happened 2 weeks ago. The similarites are amazing. Unfortunately no audio :). And unbeleivably, this has just been brought to my attention.

Incident #2 Here

In the prior post, some great ideas were posted, including the observation that Verizon did not admit to making any mistakes whatsoever. I somehow missed that. In light of this other incident, it becomes clear that Verizon really needs to address this problem instead of just trying to make it go away.

Between the two incidents, there have been 10 customer service reps that either quoted rates in cents or didn't recognize the difference, 6 in mine (5 on the phone, and 1 by implication - Nikki), and 4 in this second case.

I'd like to again open this post to ideas about how to proceed. Some great ideas were contributed in the previous post.

I'll then formulate the response to the Verizon email.

Thanks,
George

101 comments:

Eric said...

You should demand that Verizon formulate a plan to retrain their employees on the skills of basic math and clarify their pricing policies (to something like $2.05/MB as you mentioned).

Failing this, you can threaten to call for a mass cancellation of Verizon service. You have the power of thousands of readers at your fingertips now.

benhz said...

As mentioned in a previous e-mail, this will all get clearly explained when Verizon hires Dogbert as a consultant.

Matthew said...

The very best thing that can happen is if this makes the mainstream media.

I don't know much about TV in the US, but is this likely to make a tech section on CNN or something?

That kind of publicity will make Verizon squirm, and that's exactly what's needed to shake them out of their coma. Now the weekend's coming to an end and traditional media wakes up again, we'll just have to cross our fingers :)

Maelin said...

They should definitely train their employees in basic maths. As a company that charges money, they are obligated to either quote the prices they charge, or charge the prices they quote. I would tell them that they need to take steps to prevent it happening again, since if it's not an isolated incident, and with people broadcasting their experiences on the net like this, they don't want a reputation as a company that can't grasp basic properties of money. Then I'd consider taking it to your local consumer affairs watchdog organisation or whatever.

georgevaccaro said...

I posted a comment I think I need to put more thought into... It may resurface...

Joe said...

I still don't think anyone you've talked to, including Michelle who authorized the refund actually get it. I think she just got the escalation, decided it wasn't worth any more of her team's time, and gave you a refund and a warning not to do it again. She likely still thinks VZW quoted and billed you correctly the first time.

Until someone at VZW with an accounting background looks at what their reps are actually telling people and a corporate wide memo goes out, they're going to keep doing it, and at this point, it's clearly dishonest. They specifically bill kilobytes in tenths of a cent to disguise what any level of real use would be.

Amber said...

I would wait until Monday. You'll probably start getting calls or emails from newspapers and/or TV. That way Verizon will see that this is not just an individual problem; it's something that needs to be addressed company-wide. Otherwise it's just a one-man effort.

Note from my dad, also an avid follower of this incident: Reject the 100% refund. Insist that they send you a bill for $0.71. It would force them to abide by the original agreement you had with the first rep.

georgevaccaro said...

Please keep contributing ideas. I think I may take a hiatus. As I said before, I really would like to see if I hear from someone at Verizon - not just a Sunday CSR, before I get deeper into this. Perhaps someone reasonable will contact me and address issues this CSR could not.

Mark said...

"In review of your account a previous representative has credited for the data charges in question for $71.79." What does this sentence mean? it does some kind of tense shift that I don't understand.
I am assuming that it is an attempt to say "After reviewing the erroneous quote you were previously given by our representative we have decided to credit your account $71.79." Only the form of the sentence she used a) made no sense, and b) admitted no actual error or wrongdoing.

FluffyAnaiya said...

If it were me, I think I would politely inform them that I am concerned that this would happen again and would like some publicly announced assurance that the problem is being solved. Considering their BBB report, Verizon has plenty of incidents they should be learning from.

Enter this at www.bbb.org
Verizon Wireless
180 Washington Valley Rd.
Bedminster, NJ 07921

and see for yourself. They even have had government actions against them. It will take a public outcry started by something like this to get them to change their ways or just fail altogether, IMO.

georgevaccaro said...

@amber & dad

Good calls on all fronts. Thats exactly what I'm going to do. Also, I've already been contacted by the media, but have given them all rain-checks pending hearing from someone significant at Verizon.

Thank you all again for your contributions to this effort.

Stephen said...

I am not a Verizon customer, but I would be curious to hear what verizon customers following this story are quoted for data transfer rates when they call customer service. Having a few mathematically challenged call center reps is one thing, but systematically misquoting rates is entirely different.

Aaron said...

Just posted this in the previous thread, but it fits better here.

You have to remember that you're not the only person they've done this to. If there's you and peter that we know about, there are certainly many more that we don't. While "taking the high road" is usually a good thing, if you just drop it now and they never admit that they were in error and take action to prevent it from happening again, they'll just keep doing it. Do you really want anybody else to have to go through this?

My advice is to keep it up, talk to any interested reporters, and go on TV if possible until Verizon takes the whole thing seriously.

Vincent Ferrari didn't just get an apology, he got AOL to change the way they do business, making life easier for every person who has tried to cancel an AOL account since then. You have the potential to do a similar thing, albeit on perhaps a smaller level, with Verizon. Don't give up yet.

Joe said...

I think I'd do what you're doing and sit on it for a day or two. At this point, someone at VZW with a clue must've read this somewhere, and with any luck, it'll hit the fan tomorrow morning. It may take a day to filter up.

Also, anyone reading this who's a Verizon customer currently and has the capability to record a call ought to call up any random CSR or sales rep at the local store and pose the same exact question you did the first time "I'm going to Canada, how much is data going to cost me while I'm there?" to add to the thought that their personel are clearly defecient in this area.

Josh said...

i second joe's idea. we need to have a mass testing on the verizon tech support lines to see that this doesn't continue to happen....

My-Excuse said...

I would like to simply point out how DANGEROUS this could be if it was applied to other things besides just the math for money.

1,000mg is 1g this is the same way that 100 cents is 1 dollar (bear with me).

A drug by the brand name of Xanax is a sedative used for anxiety. if i took .002g(2mg) I would be sedated. if i took .2g(200mg) I would be VERY dead.

I think something along those lines should be represented to the representatives.

creamyhorror said...

---Also, anyone reading this who's a Verizon customer currently and has the capability to record a call ought to call up any random CSR or sales rep at the local store and pose the same exact question you did the first time "I'm going to Canada, how much is data going to cost me while I'm there?"---

Thirding this. It needs to be clarified whether Verizon employees are systematically misquoting (intentionally or not) their rates to customers.

I think you should phrase your letter graciously, but firmly ask for answers because you are concerned about other consumers, who you're speaking out for. As a customer you're probably too much trouble for them to spend huge efforts on retaining, but they know that any refusal to give public notice of an internal investigation will result in you using your public leverage against them.

People, you need to step forward if you were misquoted rates before and have some form of evidence. Peter, if you're reading this, can you produce any emails or letters?

Hua said...

The most important thing is to get more coverage in mainstream media. I hope some of the commenters have some sort of contact there.

gadgetfanatic said...

definitely wait 1~2 days. this NEEDS to get into mainstream media and simmer.

for all the work and frustration you went through, their proposed resolution is minimal. Verizon needs to feel the pain and rectify their shoddy customer service.

This last sentence In the future please keep in mind... also is very annoying. They need to ADMIT their error.

Rational Thinker said...

I think I have a good handle on what those reps were thinking in regards to the math, and if I’m correct, they could never have been persuaded by George’s arguments, no matter what he said. (Yes, this is a little off-topic, but may be interesting to those of us interested in how people [mis]perceive the world. Also, based on how some posts are still trying to tell of their “foolproof” method of making the reps see the truth, I think it needs to be elaborated.)

Apparently, some people learn that with currency, (take $4.56 as an example), dollars are to the left of the decimal (4 dollars) and cents are always to the right (56 cents). They then think of “cents” as another way of saying “to the right of the decimal”. Keeping that in mind, they would think 56c = $0.56 = 0.56c (the last one just being redundant.)

The amazing thing is how well this model could work for someone their whole life! Example: walk into a Mom & Pop store, where bananas are marked (incorrectly) as 0.60c a pound. Us “high math” people may see the incorrect price, but know what they mean, and probably don’t bother correcting anyone. The “low math” people buy 2 pounds, and multiply 0.60 * 2 to get the correct answer of $1.20. Notice they don’t have any concept of keeping the units in cents, or converting to dollars – but they don’t need to, as it all “magically” takes care of itself! But if a different store has a price of 60c, then they know this is 0.60 (cents means to the right of the decimal), and 2 * .60 = $1.20. Again, the right answer! And so they’re confident in their math ability when it comes to prices.

With this in mind, one rep says, $.002, .002c, “they're both the same if you look at 'em on paper-wise”. In his mind, yes, because the $ refers to anything on the left of the decimal (nothing in this case), and “cents” refers to anything to the right. And we have the same thing to the left and to the right of the decimal.

The second rep doesn’t want to use $ at all if there’s nothing to the left, so she says “there’s no .002 dollars”. But she basically has the same misunderstanding as the first guy.

The problem for us is that even if you were to get these people to follow your math reasoning (doubtful given their low understanding), they’d be faced with violating their strategy which they know has worked for them their entire life. Why should they trust some stranger’s math logic when it violates what they know works?

Danny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garry said...

002centsequals002dollars@verizonwireless.com

Pity someone can't register this email address.

:D

Tyler said...

Rational Thinker hit the nail on the head. I've been trying to think of how to say this for several days now, and that's it.

The difference between common usage and correct terminology is an unfortunate one, and until education changes it, they only way to protect yourself is to verify it character by character:

Them: "OK, that'll be point zero zero five cents per megabyte sir!"
You: "Is that dollar sign zero decimal zero zero zero zero five?"
Them: "No, that's dollar sign zero decimal zero zero five."
You: "OK, so five tenths of a cent per megabyte?"
Them: "Correct."

Excellent comment, RT.

catstoes said...

@RationalThinker

I think you're totally right. It's been making me laugh as people post "better" ways of explaining that either involve writing or are more confusing than George's attempts.

If someone's trapped in a mental model in which 0.002 dollars doesn't exist, they're not going to get any mathematical explanation.

Surreal said...

Time to layeth the smacketh down!

Stephen said...

You basically need them to say two things:

1) That they were incorrect when they quoted you a price of "point zero zero two cents"

2) That future staffers will be educated as to the ambiguity of their charges, as a failure to address this problem could be seen as an attempt to swindle customers.

and then inform them that you will be doing two things:
1) You will be calling back at random times and recording the amount customer service representatives quite you.
2) You will issue a consumer alert to the media about this in order to educate consumers about Verizon and to educate Americans on basic mathematics.

creamyhorror said...

rational thinker, I agree entirely with your assessment that, for these people, the decimal point is merely a divider between the number of dollars and the number of cents (it's what I was thinking as well). What these people need is education, and by George (lol), I hope they get it.

David said...

I had been hoping that this incident would make it all the way to congress. It appears that all the mobile phone companies and probably many businesses are not clear nor honest in their billing with customers.

They have customers over a barrel. A customer doesn't have the money to mount a legal challenge over usually smaller billing errors. Even if its a large error, companies can intimidate consumers into paying.

Mobile phone companies are the worst. Early termination fees are used as a threat daring you to leave them for bad service.

I have Sprint and I've rarely received the same answer twice. I last made changes to my account in June and have since received only one bill which was correct. All the others with gross over or under charges, mystery charges and credits.

I tried Verizon and they were worse. I consistently received three different answers from different groups at Verizon (store vs customer support vs tech support) on the pricing of data services, ranging from free to $80/mo.

It maybe easy for you to bow out at this point, but I'd hope this continues as a posterchild to make companies more accountable for thier incompetence.

Submit this story to Keith Olbermann at NBC. It needs to get more national press.

Josh said...

I put a copy of the mp3 recording on my site at http://www.lintz.net/josh/video/videoshow.php?file=verizon_bad_math. It should be the proper time of 27 minutes and people can download without going through 10 pages of ads

G$ said...

First off, thanks for the laughs with this whole fiasco.

Wouldn't the easiest way to prove the simple difference be to get rid of cents or dollars for a minute, and instead use some other unit. Maybe apples. Tell them they quoted .002 apples per KB, and you used ~35,000 KB. That would yield 71.79 apples. Then have them substitute the word apples for cents- maybe that would work?

Their math isn't wrong- it's the units. They can multiply .002 and the 35000 (I forget the actual #) just fine. In the end, this is probably like trying to teach color to a blind man. I think it would be worth a lawsuit just to get them to admit they were wrong in a public forum. They would take you to court in a heartbeat if you didn't fulfill your end of the agreement..
-G$

peter said...

@My-Excuse

this happens a lot at hospitals actualy

Manish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manish said...

Anyone seen this?

Manish said...

and this?

Manish said...

OMG...

This just bothers me so much. Do a search on google for "0.99 cents"

there are so many people who use this terminology! I'm sure they just mean $0.99.

George, are you out to correct everyone? It just seems Verizon was just doing what everyone does.

Jarrod said...

If I *had* to attempt to explain this concept, the best bet I would think would be to have them move from the word 'cents' to 'pennies'. Though it seems ludicrous, cents is a more abstract concept sort of word. The word penny evokes in someone's mind a concrete image if a little coin. This is better than bananas or whatever other non-monetary unit as the concept of 71 pennies should automatically register.. Maybe even take them through the intermediate step of two thousandths of a penny times 1000 kilobytes would be 2 pennies, and then go by 35 to get to 72 pennies....Of course, also in that position, if I realized the mistake that was happening and I was a phone grunt, I'd probably shut up and pass it to my manager because I'd be smart enough to realize potentially large consequences. I'm sure they all did misunderstand at first (escalation would have been more quickly done otherwise), but not sure they didn't get it before the handoff to their manager.

Ultimately, the service reps work under the unstated assertion that when it comes to billing, the customer is nearly always wrong if they are disputing charges. Rational thinker is probably right about the base assumption of the individuals, but by now the people responding to the topic deep down likely understand it too, but for the sake of their job/company, they don't dare say so now unless they are a fairly senior executive.

Paul said...

Contact the Better Business Bureau.

Seriously.

danknerd said...

Why does none of this surprise me?

ChinDoGu said...

If you are going to try arguing with them again, perhaps try to following.

Ok so the rate is 0.002 cents right?
Ok, type that into your calculator. Now you want to bill me in dollars right? Ok so how do we convert from cents to dollars? /100? right! Very good. Type that into your caluclator.

Mabey the math will make more sence to them if they do it before they go into their automated bill calculation mode.

thirty-seven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

manish, I got 18200 hits on google for "0.99 cents" and 25200 hits for "$0.99 cents"
This might seem widespread, but I then did a search for "99 cents" and "$0.99" and got 1,200,000 and 32,300,000 hits, respectively.
If I go by these numbers, only about one in a thousand people write it incorrectly.
I find it unlikely that such a high concentration of these people ended up working for verizon. Like I said in my previous post, I think the verizon reps are trained by verizon to pronounce these numbers incorrectly.

Saskboy said...

I think you should bill Verizon for your time spent teaching basic math.

John Stroy said...

I say, as long as Verizon offers "0.002 cents per kilobyte" in Canada, we should take advantage of it. :)

thirty-seven said...

Could any Verizon Wireless customers please call up their customer service and ask how much they would be charged to download data from within Canada, and report here whether they tell you "0.002 cents per kilobyte", "0.002 dollars per kilobyte", "0.2 cents per kilobyte", or something else. I think we'd all be interested in examples of how widespread this problem is (or isn't).

Joel said...

I think the best way to get them to understand would be to give them this scenario: the rate is $0.02/KB. Ask them what would they tell you if you called and asked? They would tell you 2 cents per KB. Not point zero two cents per KB. Perhaps this would register.

Christoph said...

I tried to reply in the HTGuide Forum but it seems to be somewhere near impossible to create a working account on that forum.

But this e-mail is simply incredible:

My name is Eva, and I am eager to address your concerns for the kilobyte charges.

On behalf of Verizon Wireless, please allow me to apologize for the frustration this matter has caused you. Verizon Wireless has a strong customer commitment to delivering the best from our service and staff. I am disappointed that you feel the service you received did not reflect this commitment.

Upon further review of your account, I found that even though our explanation may have been confusing, you were provided correct information regarding the charge for kilobyte usage. We bill the usage at $0.015 per kilobyte. This means $0.015 of a dollar, not $0.015 of a cent.

The verbal information given at the store was also correct. Your original e-mail indicated you were told "$0.015 cents per kilobyte." If it was the charge you understood it to be, it would be verbally given as 0.015ths of a cent. The charges were presented and billed correctly and I am sorry, no a credits are due at this time.


"$0.015 cents" is NOT in any way a correct way of writing 0.018 Dollars. One could as well and easy assume from this, that the rate would be 0.015 cents in US-Dollars.

Even worse: "0.015ths of a cent"
What the hell is that suppose to mean? Mathematically one "0.015ths of a cent" would be 66,67 cents! 0.015 cents would be about 1/66th of a cent.

Xal said...

I don't believe it.

This is THE EXACT conversation I had with verizon in december of last year (although to a lesser extent).

I have no data plan, and until that phone call, I had no idea picture messages were part of their data. Anyway, regardless, I was charged over 10 dollars for 717 kilobytes. (I am almost entirely certain the rate they gave me for the US was 0.015 cents), and I had the exact same conversation you had with 3 reps. They wouldn't concede that there was a complete difference between 1.5 pennies, and 0.015 pennies.

I even got the "pull out the calculator it works" garbage, I explained over and over the difference in dollars and cents, and although they agreed to drop the charges after a grueling 45 minutes, they didn't ever clarify their policies, it seems.

I'm glad you kept your patience, by the end of the call I was far more agitated, although I remained relatively calm with what I was feeling.

Andrew said...

I am glad to see you are going to continue fighting this, I just renewed my service with Verizon and it made me want to tear my hair out, one rep promising me one thing and then 'forgetting' to make a note of that in my account notes, the whole thing was a disgrace.

But on this matter, this is something we can all get involved in, send a note to your congressional reps, your senators, local news outlets, if these people start getting hammered with responses on this issue they will take action, even if it is only to take advantage of all the publicity that is going to get created. Since politicians are going to do everything they can to get their name out, we might as well get them doing something we actually want them to.

So whose made some calls? Sent some emails? Lets get some counts, it only take a minute to shoot of an email about this and every little bit helps.

And also on that note I know a lot of people think that individual effort on these types of situations does not help, but this is simply not thee case every time the FCC freaks out about something on TV or on the radio it is usually because a handful of people complained. Even the biggest issues only get a few thousand and they stand up and take notice because there is no other side writing in to express their opinion, and if you only get an opinion from one place you are going to think everyone thinks that way. Here we have a real issue in which we can actually feel good about doing something about it, why not take the fice minutes to make a call and send an email? The results, I feel, will speak for themselves.

Andrew

2 senators, 2 verizon emails, 1 TV station, and counting

peter said...

well i called (and recorded) still no refund for me :(
ill send it to george and maybe he'll post it soon

thirty-seven said...

Peter: Is your new recorded conversation available online somewhere?

Jeff said...

George, I highly respect and agree with your decision to talk first with VZW before you talk with media reporters. That shows how wise you are. Many comments illustrate a desire for bloodshed. You, on the other hand, seem to be looking for VZW to first acknowledge their mistake and second to take responsibility to educate their employees so this does not happen again. I think its just *human error* when CSR read $.002 and 'think' cents when speaking to customers. However, it just may take the power of the media to achieve that goal. Good luck and stick to what your heart tells you.

creamyhorror said...

Good luck peter. If/Once they admit fault to George they'll have no choice but to reimburse everyone who brings forward evidence of being misquoted. You'll get your cash :)

Dan said...

I can't belive the email Peter got:

My name is Eva, and I am eager to address your concerns for the kilobyte charges.

On behalf of Verizon Wireless, please allow me to apologize for the frustration this matter has caused you. Verizon Wireless has a strong customer commitment to delivering the best from our service and staff. I am disappointed that you feel the service you received did not reflect this commitment.

Upon further review of your account, I found that even though our explanation may have been confusing, you were provided correct information regarding the charge for kilobyte usage. We bill the usage at $0.015 per kilobyte. This means $0.015 of a dollar, not $0.015 of a cent.

The verbal information given at the store was also correct. Your original e-mail indicated you were told "$0.015 cents per kilobyte." If it was the charge you understood it to be, it would be verbally given as 0.015ths of a cent. The charges were presented and billed correctly and I am sorry, no a credits are due at this time.

She is stupid beyond belief. Please give us an email address so we can send her math tutorials on how to use decimals and fractions and different units.

Aaron said...

I ran into this today looking for something completely different. It pretty much sums up how I feel about this whole situation.

@jeff
I don't know about everyone else, but I certainly don't have a "desire for bloodshed" about this. I would, however, like to see this get enough media attention to make sure that it never happens again.

peter said...

i am trying to get it emailed to george but gmail doesnt even like that

the cut version consisits of three .wav files of 5, 7 and 16 mb
the uncut (30min on hold) is much longer ofcourse

if someone knows how to combine the three files (as my software will not allow it) and or knows were to host it ill be up a bit longer and can do so

Nick said...

Tyler,
I disagree with your comment that the usage Rational Thinker came up with is the 'common usage'. Maybe I'm being optimistic, but I have to believe most people recognize that there is a relationship between cents and dollars other than "one is on the right, the other on the left". The reason the entire customer support office at Verizon is doing it incorrectly is probably that one person came up with the idea and then went around "teaching" it to all their coworkers.

James said...

peter - the sound recorder which comes with windows has some basic editing functionality, like splitting and combining sound files.
To convert it to an .mp3 use something like LAME. I think there's GUI versions of it out there if you're not comfortable with command line.

peter said...

got it
can anyone host 30mb?

catstoes said...

@nick
The mistake probably isn't completely conscious. People are just so used to seeing the numbers after the decimal point as cents that it happens automatically.

I have to admit when I see "0.99 cents" it's really hard not to read it as 99 cents. When thinking about money, 0.99 "means" 99 cents and the "cents" at the end isn't strong enough to override that.

What's shocking is that the 25 mins of explanation didn't make it clear to them.

KG said...

You should use your ad revenue to buy a billboard that is situated near the Verizon call center. On that billboard you can teach them some math. like

1 dollar = 50 x 2 cents = 50 x 0.02 dollar
1 dollar = 500 x .2 cents = 500 x 0.002 dollar
1 dollar = 5000 x .02 cents = 500 x 0.0002 dollar
1 dollar = 50000 x .002 cents = 50000 x 0.00002 dollar

Mark said...

Peter: Try http://www.putfile.com/

peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manish said...

For those of you who're still trying to find an easy way to explain that $0.002 is not equal to 0.002 cents, here's a proof by contradiction:

1. Assume $0.002 IS EQUAL to 0.002 cents. i.e. $0.002 = 0.002c

2. Divide both sides by 0.002 (cancellation). You get $1 = 1 cent

3. If $1 = 1 cent, then pay the 71 friggen cents dammit :)

Dan said...

Ok I think I have a foolproof way to explain this to a moron:

Start with what we both know and agree on.

35 893 kb is how much data was used
check
the cost of the data is 0.002 cents/kb

Now, lets pretend for a minute that we're not talking about dollars or cents, we're talking about say apples. So pretend that the rate is 0.002 apples per kb. How many apples would 35 893 kb cost? 71.79 apples. right. Now if the rate was 0.002 oranges per kb, how much would it cost... 71.79 oranges. Now if the rate was 0.002 cents per kb, it would cost... 71.79 cents. There you go.

Mike said...

After reading through this (and the other) story and listening to the audio, I thought to myself: "what would be the clearest possible way to explain the problem to an idiot?" The solution I reached is a chart with purty pictures.

And here it is.

peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peter said...

here is the audio





Click here to watch 'mafskilz'

Dan said...

Too bad you can't get them to admit the original rate of 0.015 cents per kb. Once you get that you can nail them on it.

You should have got them if they aknowledge that the rate was 0.015 cents per kb

Dan said...

You really didn't prove anything on that audio except that the customer reps are still morons. I'd say write a letter to the head office telling them you were quotes 0.015 cents and charged 1.15 cents

peter said...

^ she does at the end
she says "it is point zero one five cents a kilobyte"

like I said I sence that something is brewing since they both say the rate is .015 w/o specifying rate.... very different tone this time around
more listening less telling me im wrong

peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
creamyhorror said...

@mike & dan: There's no point explaining it the way you did (and believe me hundreds of other commenters have already tried before you). You assume that they understand "cents" as a unit, but the entire point here is that they don't. They think of cents as "the number to the right of the decimal place", and when they write a rate down it doesn't actually have any units attached - it's just the number ".002".

The trouble is that when they read it aloud they say ".002 cents", which is simply their convention, but is entirely wrong by society's understanding.

creamyhorror said...

@peter: Aha it looks like you got a careful one. I think she's been briefed that you're all riled up about the words ".015 cents", and is trying to avoid saying "cents" as she retreads the same arguments they've been making all along.

You should have held her to the very fundamental point that the verbatim words used by reps when quoting the rate to you were ".015 cents per kilobyte", not "1.5 pennies per kilobyte" or ".015 per kilobyte". It doesn't matter what she's saying now - what matters is that the reps repeatedly told you the wrong rate. ".015 cents" is legally and universally understood to mean $0.00015, there's no debate about that.

Ken said...

I said it before on a differant post, but I knew if they did this to you they are doing it to a sizable amount of their customer base. Make this public. They are essentaily commiting advertising fraud, if intentional or not.

If the guy with the 21 minute phone call to cancel his aol acount got a 5 minute spot on CNN, this deserves the same or better. Of course I'd personaly love to see Verizon get publicly humiliated for their failure with this matter.

Make this public. It seems some people already have news station contacts lined up, and I hope you take them up on it.

peter said...

In my case I realy cant persue this until the end of the billing period as we all know that would involve waaaay too much left brain activity. So I look forward to her call as promised on christmas.

id like to see george's on colbert report

consumers report may also find the humor in this issue for there back page

Dan said...

look at this one
http://oberon.codepoetry.net/files/verizon-rounding.jpg

peter said...
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peter said...

woah thats like 9 billion cents

Lukas said...

This is the saddest thing I think I've ever seen in my life. I'm a student in college majoring in mathematics, and by the end of that audio track I was near tears it was so bad. I'll never consider Verizon again until they provide some evidence of better trained employees that know 5th grade math. That track was depressing. George, I KNOW your pain, oh lord do I know...
It feels like you're talking to a wall, or teaching a dog to speak English, they just won't get it because they're far too incompetent to understand. How do these people live? You would probably have better luck teaching the dog to speak English...

Jack's Doppleganger said...

I think everyone here should apply for a job at Verizon Wireless' Customer Service Department. We can put on our applications/resumes that we know the difference between dollars and cents. :)

skyhigh17 said...

George, mad props to you for being so patient with those morons.
You deserve a free year of service for the troubles they gave you. You or anybody with the right connection should try hard to bring this story published in the news. This is a perfect example of big corporate business screwing over small customer over their mistake and not willing to admit it.

Bring this to the media and expose Verizon for their stupidity and the way they treat their costumer.

Jamesio said...

Clearly the problem is the translation from cents to dollars/KB. With the example given to Andrea (I think) she adjusted 1c/KB to .01 before multiplying to get the result in dollars, but nobody's doing that for .002 or .015. It's not a matter of them being poorly trained, as they've been told to translate c/KB into $/KB by moving the decimal two places, they're just not doing it already (and combining it with their generally-unnecessary knowledge of arithmetic).

Steve said...

I honestly think that too many people are giving the benefit of the doubt to Verizon.

I mean - come on... What are the odds that you would find five people that stupid? In succession? That's just illogical.

The question really should be - is this corporate policy, encouraged behaviour, the way that one manager runs the floor, or the way that people are trained?

Find 5 people today who you think are not very mathematical. Ask them if first if they understand that there is a difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents. Ask them secondly, if you were to buy 1000 apples from them at a price of .002 cents each, how much they would charge you. Hand them a calculator. I guarantee you that you will not get 5 wrong answers.

DoorFrame said...

Call them on the phone at their corporate headquarters and ask to speak to either the CEO (find his name online) or the VP of customer care. State who you are and your connection to all the buzz online, they'll get somebody to talk to you. Explain that they haven't conceded their mistake and ask them iif they're willing to acknowledge that this entire bruhaha was their fault and that you'd like a written apology.

Keith said...

I just called Verizon's sales department, and was quoted ".0015 cents per KB." When I asked the rep if he meant dollars, he said, "It depends how you look at it."

I hung up.

georgevaccaro said...

@Mike

Great graphic. Do you mind if I copy that and post it more prominently? Is it safe to link directly to it? Please let me know. Thanks.

John.W.Scott said...
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John.W.Scott said...

@ Steve...

I just asked my class of 9 college students.

NONE of them got it right.

Plus consider, CSRs probably have below average math skills. So yes, I tend to think it's an honest mistake on their part.

Have you done the experiment yourself?

Steve said...

John -

Do you go to one of those short bus schools?

j/k

:)

earache said...

Taking into consideration what rational thinker said about viewing figures in a way where dollars are to the left of the decimal, and cents are to the right of the decimal, it should be simple that Verizon could see that .002 is LESS THAN two cents. *IF* they are looking at figures in this manner, one way to hit the point home would be to have them do a simple sales tax calculation.

For instance, lets say there's a two cent (.02) sales tax on every dollar spent at Verizon. You spend one hundred dollars (100.00) and calculate the sales tax: 100.00 x .02 = 2.0 (or two dollars) Then Verizon says, "No, we quoted .002 cents sales tax". Next, have them enter their "quoted" sales tax in the calculation: 100.00 x .002 = 0.20 (or twenty cents)

If this won't make them understand, nothing will.

Heather said...

george, you are my new hero.

wreave said...

What happened at Verizon to resolve your issue is simple: someone who understands it got ahold of it and fixed it. Clearly there are a lot of people in the world who understand the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents, though you didn't speak to any of them. When faced with the evidence, such as your blog/recording and the notes in your account, it was obvious they'd have to credit it.

If we're all lucky, they'll be more clear about the price, and your suggestion to price it by the meg makes a ton of sense. Obviously, trying to train the reps in fractions/decimals isn't going to do any good.

thirty-seven said...

Replying to Steve's experiment of asking 5 random non-mathies if they know the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents, etc:

I think that all 5 might likely get it wrong - but that is no excuse for the Verizon reps that George has dealt with. I tried this type of experiment with a non-mathie friend, asking them how they would read "$0.002" and they got it wrong, saying "point zero zero two cents". However, the big difference between them and the Verizon reps is that when I started explaining the mistake, my friend immediately saw her error and understood my point. When she said "$0.002" is read as "0.002 cents", I wrote down "0.002¢" and asked how she would read that. "Ahhh....," and like that, within five seconds she understood her mistake and the difference.

I think that five random people might make the same mistake, but most of them would catch on within a few minutes of explanation. The problem with the Verizion reps is not that they made an unfortunately common mistake - it is that they cannot grasp it no matter how simply it is explaned to them.

Sida said...

I'm not quite satisfied with their letter to you. I think they should be more sincere, and apologize. Also they should give YOU a full explanation WHY it is 72 cents, and not 72 dollars.

georgevaccaro said...

@sida - I agree.

Jacob said...

From Verizon's perspective, they've closed the incident and are moving on. This makes it much more difficult to get them to admit to anything. Before they gave you the credit, your arguing power came from "they wrongly are charging me money." Now that they aren't doing that, you've lost a lot of your power to demand anything.

The only power you have left is the power to publicly embarrass them. And the best way to exercise that power is to let the press take up the story. You should start with newspapers instead of TV, because newspaper reporters are a little more likely to investigate the problem. (Unless a consumer protection reporter from TV contacts you).

When you talk to the media, don't focus on the fact that Verizon doesn't know dollars and cents, focus on the fact that they've possibly been misquoting many of their customers by using the wrong units. If its just about a unit mix-up, it will end up in the "odd news" section, but if it is about Verizon robbing their customers, then it is more likely to hit the bigger headlines.

Tony said...

the people who are against outsourcing to India should be very afraid. Some of the people working in call enters over there might have thick accent that is hard for you to understand, but at least they know their algebra :p

Scott said...

For those who do not want bloodshed, consider the fact that millions of customers suffer (and SUFFER is the correct word if you have ever truly had a dispute with a phone company) on a daily basis. In the past month I upgraded my Sprint account from a regular phone to a $200/month blackberry. The entire process took me about 10 hours over the course of 1 month, including at least 8 hours on the phone. I will not get into the details, but I was trying to do something that they said was technically impossible. I called reps, wrote letters and tried everything.

Finally, I threatened to quit (on the last day that I could quit without paying a penalty--day 30), and they took care of the TECHNICALLY IMPOSSIBLE ISSUE in less than 10 minutes.

ALL phone companies to my knowledge treat their customers terribly, and although I consider a billing discrepancy of equal importance, I could not even pay to make my problem go away. Essentially, the policy of these companies is to just waste their customer's time, which to me is worse than being overcharged.

In summary, I hope that mass media embarrassment occurs and that companies actually start competing with each other to provide better service.

danvm said...

You could have/should have stressed the fact that when you multiply something the resulting number is in the same unit of measure as the initial number,
i.e. "Cents go in, Cents come out"

anjuna said...

I bet if Verizon started paying their employees 100 times less per hour, they'd learn the difference really fast. ;)

rickg said...

You learn this really quickly in Physics: LEAVE THE UNITS IN. Otherwise you can lose track of them as equations get more complicated.

I think if any of these poor knobs ever looked at an equation with more than three components their brains would freeze up.

I might have tried getting them to write the calculation down on paper, leaving the units in. The numbers crunch, the units cancel, and violĂ , 72 cents. That might have caused a meltdown though. If they don't get the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars, the idea of cancelling units as though they're variables might have been too much.

You, my friend, showed remarkable restraint, and I commend you on it.